Journey to Zero-Harm: 4 Key Safety Management Processes to Continuously Improve
Blog | September 30th, 2023

Journey to Zero-Harm: 4 Key Safety Management Processes to Continuously Improve

We were at a conference for safety leaders recently and one of the most important topics of discussion was ‘Building a Safety Culture not only for Zero-Incidents but also Zero-Harm’.

So, you may ask, what’s the difference?

The goal of ‘Zero Incidents’, sometimes called Zero Accident Vision (ZAV), is all about doing whatever it takes to eliminate accidents and safety incidents at the workplace. It revolves around building a safety culture that spreads across the organization. To truly achieve zero incidents, one must ensure all key safety management processes including documenting a robust safety policy, safety training, agile incident handling, proactive risk management, regular safety audits, inspections, and risk management workflows are robust.

Pillars of Total Worker Health

To truly deliver on safety performance, one must have an engaged workforce that believes in taking the necessary precautions to be safety-first.

So, then, what’s ‘Zero Harm’? It’s something beyond just eliminating safety incidents. It is all about proactive risk management- eliminating risks quickly and effectively. It is about ensuring that nothing that harms people (workers, contractors, suppliers, anyone) or the environment is planned.

In this blog, we emphasize the importance of four key safety management processes that must be tightened and consistently made better to achieve ‘Zero Harm’.

Process #1 - Risk Assessments and Risk Mitigation

Earlier, we published a blog titled 'Risk Assessment Matrix to Proactively Improve Workplace Safety Efforts'. In the blog, we highlighted the importance of implementing a risk matrix that

  • Provides safety leaders with a visual representation of the risks
  • Helps them prioritize risk mitigation efforts, based level of risk and urgency
  • Implement controls and check if they’re effective
  • Use data at the core of all risk management decisions

DO THIS → If you’re working towards a vision of ‘zero harm’, a good first step is to spot gaps in your risk assessment and risk management workflow, and address those gaps.

Process #2 - Incident Management

In one of our eBooks titled ‘Incident Management: A Comprehensive Guide for Safety Leaders’ we wrote:

“To proactively reduce accidents and embrace a zero-harm vision: processes must be set to increase reporting of near-misses, safety observations, and minor injuries, while also proactively implementing risk mitigation actions after an incident.” 

One has to look at all safety data - near-misses, safety observations, incidents - holistically and use this to identify warning signs and precursors. The journey to zero harm revolves around identifying and acting on these early warning signs.

DO THIS → Implement an EHS tool with data at the core. Ensure the right people are looking at safety data and spotting insights from analytics. Spot the early warning signs and act!

Process #3 - Safety Inspections

A workplace is filled with several hazards that can cause injury or harm to the employee or damage other assets of the business. Perhaps, certain processes are bad for the environment. By conducting inspections periodically, businesses ensure the safety of their operations by identifying potential unsafe acts/conditions and taking corrective action.

This is captured in a Findings Report, which is shared with relevant stakeholders for further action to proactively address and eliminate hazards or mitigate the risks. A well-designed safety inspection process will enable the following:

  • Inspections are used to proactively detect and eliminate unsafe conditions and unsafe acts
  • It is a critical part of ongoing workplace monitoring
  • Focused inspections are run to check specific aspects covering the following: People, Environment, Physical conditions, Machinery/Materials and Equipment

When inspection findings are documented and acted on, you’re well on your way to achieving better safety and zero harm.

DO THIS → Automate, streamline and run a data-driven safety inspection process. Plan corrective actions and close the loop on inspection findings.

Process #4 - Behavior-Based Safety

Unfortunately, the most common source of workplace injuries or accidents is ‘human error’. How do we minimize and eliminate this? How do we prevent workers from engaging in high-risk tasks without taking necessary precautions? How do we build a culture where safety training is taken seriously and workers/contractors truly embrace what they learn?

Often, workers end up with injuries or cause accidents, because they resort to shortcuts, are distracted, or operate machinery with overconfidence. The key is to schedule safety inspections that are dedicated to eliminating bad, risky behavior. Data from safety observations must be analyzed to see how human error and behavioral flaws caused it.

DO THIS → Identify and document unsafe acts by people. Document “behavior changes” needed to achieve zero harm.

Broadly speaking, steps must be taken to do the following:

  • Train and communicate (about the criticality of better safety) with all employees, through proper channels.
  • Hold team leads, plant heads, and other key stakeholders accountable for better safety and get them to build a safety-first culture. Talk about the vision to build a zero-harm culture.
  • Reinforce and reward good behavior, and inspire other workers to follow suit.
  • Employee participation lies at the core of better safety. The question to answer is - how do you keep your people across locations truly invested in the safety agenda of the organization?

As senior management leaders, one must walk the talk, and being out on the shop floor to promote "better safety" sends a strong signal of management commitment to workplace safety and catalyzes employees to act safely.

To find out how ComplianceQuest can help in this journey, request a demo here:

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